Welcome to the first post in our series on how to coach youth soccer! This series is for volunteer and parent coaches who are new to the game and coaching kids ages 3-5(ish). The goal of the series is to provide you with some tips, tricks, and drills to make your coaching experience more enjoyable for both you and your young charges.
The most important thing to remember when coaching this age group is that it’s all about the kids and having fun. They’re not playing to win (not yet, anyway), they just want to have a good time. Parents enjoy watching their kids play and have fun too, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you coach.
If you haven’t quite figured it out yet, the theme of Lesson 1 is FUN. We’re going to cover three “guidelines” to help make sure you are creating the most fun environment possible for the little ones you’ll be leading.
Rule #1 – Less Talking, More Playing
Get them kicking the ball and moving around as early as possible. The less time they spend standing still or sitting on the sidelines, the better. Kids this age have the attention span of a flash of lightning, so they are unlikely to learn anything if they’re not actively engaged in the activity. One popular game that a lot of coaches like to play is “Little, Little, Big”. The objective of the game is to get kids comfortable with kicking the ball and to (at least start) developing ball dribbling skills. Have the kids lineup on one side of the field with their balls. You’ll then have them make two “little” kicks before making a “big” kick. The “big” kick should be about twice as far as the “little” kicks. The kids then chase after their ball and repeat the process.
TIP: Line them up on the “long-side” of the field so that they can all go at the same time. You can do a single-file line, but remember that the main goal is to keep the kids moving. There’s too much time for the kids to get distracted in a single-file line.
Rule #2 – Positive Reinforcement, Positively
Kids these age very susceptible to outside influences, including coach’s emotions. If you’re excited and enthusiastic about what you’re doing, they will be as well. Remember to keep your voice positive and upbeat when addressing the kids. If a player makes a mistake, show them how to do it right and then encourage them to try again. It’s important that they don’t feel like they’re being singled out or made fun of in front of the other kids. No pressure, but a bad experience for kids these age can put them off to the sport (or all sports!) forever.
A great way to positively reinforce good behavior is through the use of “cheer points”. Cheer points are given for things like making a good kick or helping a teammate up off the ground.
You can give out as many cheer points as you want, but make sure that everyone is getting them. The kids will start to get competitive and try to rack up the most points, which in turn will help their soccer skills improve.
Rule #3 – Keep it Short
This one should be pretty self explanatory, but we’ll say it anyway. Kids this age have a very short attention span. If you try to do too much at once, they will get overwhelmed and tune you out completely. It’s important to keep your drills short and sweet. 7 minutes is probably the maximum amount of time you want to spend on any one drill or activity. And if you can, try to break it up into even shorter segments with a minute or two of rest in between.
If you’re like I was when I started out coaching youth soccer, you’re going to need all of the help that you can get. Here are a helpful resources to help you during your coaching journey:
- US Youth Soccer – First Time Coaches
- Best Drills for 3 to 4 Year Olds
- Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Coaching Youth Soccer
- Best Soccer Balls
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start coaching youth soccer?
You can start coaching at any time, but most coaches start when their kids are old enough to play. If you’re starting from scratch, the best thing to do is to “get into the arena” — start researching and playing games with your own littles ones to see which ones they enjoy the most.
How much does it cost to coach youth soccer?
The cost of coaching can range from nothing at all to a few hundred dollars, depending on the level of soccer you’re coaching. If you’re coaching in a recreational league, the fees are usually very reasonable. However, if you’re coaching in a more competitive environment, the fees will be higher to cover things like field rentals and referee. At the age group we covered today, you should expect the cost to come in on the lower end of the range.
What do I need to coach youth soccer?
In order to coach, you should have (or get the following)
Where can I find more resources on coaching youth soccer?
The internet is a great place to start. You can find plenty of articles, blog posts, and even YouTube videos on coaching soccer. If you know another coach, pick their brain for advice and resources. There are also several organizations that offer coach training programs, such as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)
As always, if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please feel free to reach out to us at we’ll be happy to help out as well!